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My Country, Mine Country

My Country, Mine Country: Indigenous People, mining and development contestation in remote Australia

Benedict Scambary
Volume: CAEPR Monograph No. 33
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: ANU Press
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  • Book Info
    My Country, Mine Country
    Book Description:

    Agreements between the mining industry and Indigenous people are not creating sustainable economic futures for Indigenous people, and this demands consideration of alternate forms of economic engagement in order to realise such ‘futures’. Within the context of three mining agreements in north Australia this study considers Indigenous livelihood aspirations and their intersection with sustainable development agendas. The three agreements are the Yandi Land Use Agreement in the Central Pilbara in Western Australia, the Ranger Uranium Mine Agreement in the Kakadu region of the Northern Territory, and the Gulf Communities Agreement in relation to the Century zinc mine in the southern Gulf of Carpentaria in Queensland. Recent shifts in Indigenous policy in Australia seek to de-emphasise the cultural behaviour or imperatives of Indigenous people in undertaking economic action, in favour of a mainstream conventional approach to economic development. Concepts of ‘value’, ‘identity’, and ‘community’ are key elements in the tension between culture and economics that exists in the Indigenous policy environment. Whilst significant diversity exists within the Indigenous polity, Indigenous aspirations for the future typically emphasise a desire for alternate forms of economic engagement that combine elements of the mainstream economy with the maintenance and enhancement of Indigenous institutions and ‘livelihood’ activities. Such aspirations reflect ongoing and dynamic responses to modernity, and typically concern the interrelated issues of access to and management of ‘country’, the maintenance of Indigenous institutions associated with family and kin, access to resources such as cash and vehicles, the establishment of robust representative organisations, and are integrally linked to the derivation of both symbolic and economic value of livelihood pursuits.

    eISBN: 978-1-922144-73-7
    Subjects: Technology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. List of tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. List of figures
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Abbreviations and acronyms
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  7. 1. Indigenous policy, the mining industry, and Indigenous livelihoods: An introduction
    (pp. 1-30)

    Australia is a country characterised by its vast and sparsely inhabited arid landscapes. A recent and brief colonial history has given rise to a nation state that supports one of the richest economies in the world despite the small population of 20 million people. The productivity of the ‘land’ is embedded in the exploitation of vast mineral reserves in Australia (Trigger 1997a, 1997b); the subsequent flow of revenue to the state is critical to the maintenance of the Australian economy. In 2006–2007, the time setting for this study of mining agreements with Indigenous people in Australia, the value of...

  8. 2. ‘Government been mustering me…’: Historical background
    (pp. 31-66)

    The title of this chapter comes from the statement, ‘Government been mustering me from the beginning, now they still mustering me’, made by an elderly Waanyi woman resident on Mornington Island (interview, July 2003). She was discussing her personal experience of state control of Indigenous people, and reflecting on her perception that the Gulf Communities Agreement (GCA) restricts Indigenous choices about the nature of their engagement with the mining industry. The metaphor used by her calls upon the historically unequal relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians in the pastoral industry and that were sanctioned by the state. The statement also...

  9. 3. ‘They still mustering me’: The three agreements
    (pp. 67-100)

    The colonial process described in the previous chapter continued through the 1950s when reserve lands became a target for mineral exploration and development. In the post-war period mining was presented as an opportunity for Indigenous people to allay embedded economic disadvantage in areas ‘where there are otherwise limited conventional development opportunities’ (Altman 2002: 1; see also Pearson 2000). Legislation such as the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) 1976 Act (ALRA) and the Native Title Act 1993 (NTA) have established processes for the negotiation of agreements between the mining industry, Indigenous people and the state. Both pieces of legislation have arisen...

  10. 4. The Ranger uranium mine: When opportunity becomes a cost
    (pp. 101-140)

    Of the three mines considered by this study, the Ranger mine in Kakadu National Park, and within the traditional estate of the Mirrar Gundjeihmi people in the Northern Territory, has the longest and most complex history. It is difficult to separate consideration of the mine from that of the surrounding Kakadu National Park. The opposition of Mirrar Gundjeihmi people, the traditional owners of the Ranger, Jabiluka and town of Jabiru lease areas (Toohey 1981: 21–3), to the establishment of the mine in 1977 is well documented (Altman 1983a: 56; Fox, Kelleher and Kerr 1977; Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation (GAC) 2001,...

  11. 5. ‘We’ve got the richest trusts but the poorest people’: The Yandi Land Use Agreement
    (pp. 141-186)

    In the absence of any land rights legislation in Western Australia, the passing of the Native Title Act 1993 (NTA) provided an opportunity for Indigenous people of the Central Pilbara to assert their rights over their traditional lands, and to do so in the context of mineral development in the Pilbara. Despite the earlier involvement of Indigenous people in the mining industry (Cousins and Nieuwenhuysen 1984; Edmunds 1989; Wilson, 1961, 1970, 1980), their exclusion from the Pilbara mine economy was inherent in the construction of new restricted access mining towns in the 1960s and 1970s to service the influx of...

  12. 6. ‘Achieving white dreams whilst being black’: Agency and ambivalence at Century mine
    (pp. 187-230)

    Negotiations between Conzinc Rio Tinto of Australia (CRA) and the Gulf communities concerning the development of the Century deposit and associated pipeline and port facilities began in 1991 (Blowes and Trigger 1998), at about the same time that Hamersley Iron, a subsidiary of CRA, was involved in the Marandoo dispute in the Central Pilbara (see Chapters 2 and 5). Complex negotiations saw the intervention of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) and state-appointed mediators (including ex-Governor General Bill Hayden); disputation amongst Indigenous groups with interests in the project area; several overlapping native title claims; and militant action by...

  13. 7. Conclusion
    (pp. 231-240)

    This study examines relationships between the mining industry and Indigenous people associated with the Ranger Uranium Mine (RUM) Agreement, the Yandi Land Use Agreement (YLUA) and the Gulf Communities Agreement (GCA). Indigenous perspectives on their engagement with the industry in the context of these agreements reveal ambivalence towards mineral development that is motivated by both the inevitability of such development, and the need to maintain and negotiate distinctive Indigenous identities to meet the challenges that such developments present. The responses of Indigenous people across the sites of inquiry are historically informed, as are the agreements themselves. Diverse Indigenous aspirations identified...

  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 241-270)
  15. Index
    (pp. 271-276)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 277-278)